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Rocket Fishing Rod
Junk Promoted by Roland Martin
By Bill E. Branscum   ©2009

There you have it boys and girls, the Rocket Fishing Rod, as seen on TV, and touted by professional bass fisherman Roland Martin.

The commercials are great, but most commercials should be taken with a grain of salt - the representation that children can use these things to catch fish is sheer fantasy. Unfortunately, fantasy sells; children are especially susceptible and vulnerable to exploitation. William, my three year old, was completely taken by the commercials to the point that we had to let him try it.

Although this Rocket Fishing Rod normally sells for about $40, my wife found it on sale for $12 which, in retrospect, should have been a clue.

This is a great way to thoroughly disappoint a child.

We took William out on the boat to a place where he could "cast" without worry about getting tangled up (and we could simply go retrieve it if he did). I literally had a boat load of children (most of mine, and some of their friends), and everyone was curious to see this thing work. The excitement and enthusiasm didn't last long - it took about five casts for this three year old who loves fishing to see that this is a sorry piece of junk. It pained me to see the little guy so disappointed, but sometimes you must let children see and do for themselves.

The problems with this Rocket Fishing Rod are legion.

It will definitely launch the "safety bobber" [above at right] a respectable distance, but you must tie your hook directly to the six pound test line (no way to use any type leader), you are limited to using one split shot weight, and you must pack the hook, weight and whatever you are using for bait inside the safety bobber. Looking at the size of that tiny compartment, fishing with shiners is obviously out of the question, which makes one wonder about the people catching huge bass in the commercials.

Even using just a small piece of shrimp, or a small worm, we found that the safety bobber wouldn't usually deploy properly, which leaves the child "fishing" with his bait stuck inside the plastic float - and no way to tell.

Stay away from weeds, stumps or anything else that could cause a snag -- in other words, all the good places that fish hang out where you would normally try to get bait to. You need to be especially careful because, if you do get hung up, you have to replace the entire safety bobber contraption (at about $3 each) which will take some time, especially if you break the line above that little "line stop" that the entire system depends upon.

If you do manage to hook a fish with this thing (not that I'd worry about that too much), it better be a very small fish. You have no way to "play" a fish with this toy bazooka, and six pound test line won't let you force the fish out of weeds and such, so a fish of any size would be likely to tangle you up.

Note that they tell you this is not for young children. The fact is, this is a child's toy, that only a young child will be interested in, but it is not safe for them. They must have the age warning because it would be easy to seriously hurt someone if you shot them in the face with this. This thing would be more honestly marketed as a "toy bazooka with a retrievable rocket."

If I seem a little miffed over something that just cost us $12, the $12 has nothing to do with it. I am annoyed that a professional bass fisherman like Roland Martin, a man who has to know what a sorry piece of junk this is, is out there shilling this junk to kids and parents who don't know any better.

Lest anyone suspect that William's problems with the Rocket Fishing Rod were due to a three year old's inability to fish, I am here to tell you that this child is a fishing machine.

The youngest of my five children, this little guy doesn't watch cartoons, or any of the other shows my other kids enjoyed - William lives for shows related to hunting and fishing.

That's a real child, with a real fish, he really caught - what a concept.

Does he look like a child who isn't serious about his fishing!

I got a $100 says that Roland Martin cannot bring his Rocket Fishing Rod down here and compete with William!

To this family, fishing has been something of a tradition. It's more than an exercise in outsmarting a fish, it is about relationships, time together, time to talk, time to enjoy each other, and a time to let the rest of the world do whatever it is that they do without us having to worry about it.

Personally, I find that preferable to a world of commercialism, marketing, hype and endorsements.

Megan, my daughter, fishing as a child. I think she was probably four years old at the time. In a few months, my baby girl will be a teenager.

Below right, Megan's gal pal Camila Simonelli.

Ryan and a bass he caught at one of our favorite local ponds when he was about six years old.

Ryan, as pictured above, will soon be fourteen.

At left, I'm helping my son Dook unhook a bass he caught at about seven years old - that's his big brother Jeremy in the background. Above, Dook at fifteen, with Camila Simonelli.

Above, my oldest son Jeremy at about five years old with the biggest Florida lobster I ever saw in my life. Above right, Jeremy at about fifteen with a bass he caught at the pond.

Below, Jeremy at twenty-one, tubing with William.

Jeremy is now twenty-three; following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Navy Corpsman assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps.

If you want to take a child fishing, the good news is that there are those in the industry who seem to care what kind of equipment they are putting into the hands of children. WalMart, Target, K-Mart . . . just about anywhere you look, you can buy a little combo rod and reel set like William used in the pictures above for about ten dollars. Over the years, I have probably bought a couple of dozen.

You want one that is about half again as tall as the child that will be using it. I have always liked the equipment that Shakespeare sells, like the Spiderman combo with the rubber practice casting lure [SPMAN26KIT]. If you put that in Google, you will find them advertised for well under $10. I would suggest you buy two - you should always have an extra fishing rod when fishing with the little guys.

Things happen, and that extra pole can make all the difference when a child catches theirs in a car door, drops it in the water, or something.

The one criticism that I have of these children's combos is the line they put on them. The first thing I do is strip that line off and replace it with some good quality twenty pound test line. Since that line is much thicker than the line that came on it, you won't be able to put as much on the little reel, but a child cannot cast very far anyway. With heavier line, you won't lose as much tackle when they get hung up, and little children do tend to get hung up a lot. The heavier line is also a lot easier to untangle.

I'd also suggest that you not expect too much of them when they are really little. William will fish all day, but in my experience, that's very unusual. If a child of three or four will fish for an hour, that is about all you can normally expect. Remember that when they are just starting out, everything is new and curious. Fish a bit, and then walk around a bit - and don't carp at them to be quiet, sit still, quit throwing rocks, . . . or anything else that little kids do.

This can be a lot of fun, and they will really enjoy themselves, especially if you always make it a practice to leave just before they want to go.

Be sure and pack lots of water and don't forget the sunscreen. Children dehydrate quickly, they burn easily, and they don't always remember to drink as much water as they should, especially if the fish are biting.

For my wife Luz, fishing was a whole new experience when she first got involved with us, but she is almost as dedicated to it now as our son William is.

The picture set above is a mystery - nobody is sure who caught the big catfish.

Does life really get any better than this?

Gone Fishing



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